If pressed, I could tell you how to make good guacamole in one sentence. Something like this – mash ripe avocados with finely chopped white onions, a minced garlic clove, a squeeze of lime juice, then salt to taste. But to make great guacamole, it’s the little decisions going between those commas that make all the difference. If you were standing next to me throughout the guacamole-making process, you’d pick up on the dozens of choices and considerations that actually matter. So, I thought I might try to go longer-form with you on this one – walk you through my thought process, step-by-step here, related to one of my favorite things to eat.
Like most things that end up on the table, your success or failure depends on how you do at the market. The most important step in this entire process is procuring the perfect avocados. Ripe. But not too ripe. Beautiful, buttery, green-fleshed decadence – that’s what you’re after. Sometimes easier said than done.
Choosing the right avocados. I spend more time choosing the avocados for guacamole than actually preparing it. You want avocados that are ripe, and the only way to figure out whether they’re at their peak is to evaluate them one at a time. To decipher whether or not an avocado is ripe enough, hold it in your palm, and give it a gentle squeeze with the pads of your fingers. There should be some give, like butter that has been out of the refrigerator for an hour in an average-temp kitchen. The give should be uniform across the surface of the fruit. Try to imagine whether that amount of give would translate to good mash ability. Avocados tend to be more ripe toward the surface, less ripe toward the seed. You’ll want to keep that in mind as you’re evaluating them. Look at the color as well. Over-ripe avocados (depending on the varietal) tend to be black with pockets of unstructured softness. I don’t typically use the trick where you wiggle the stem button – if it’s loose, the avocado is ripe (but possible too ripe!), but that is another tactic to decipher whether an avocado is in the zone.
If you buy under-ripe avocados and have a few days before using them they’ll continue to ripen over time. If you’re in a rush – avocados ripen more quickly sealed in a paper bag. To slow down the ripening process, place them in the refrigerator (but bring back to room-temperature before using).
Temperature: Use room-temperature avocados. Don’t try to make guacamole with cold avocados. Also, serve guacamole at room temperature, not chilled.
Stretching: Avocados can be pricey, so a lot of restaurants will “stretch” or bulk out their guacamole with things like chopped tomatoes. I’m not a fan of this. The tomato addition in particular. I don’t love the way watery tomatoes bump up against fatty avocado – it’s literally oil and water. I like guacamole to be about the avocado, and unless I’m throwing some wildcards in the mix (like the one in my last book), I typically keep it as clean and simple as possible.
Adjustments: Beyond this – trust your taste buds to balance things out. If you like a bit of spicy kick, add some minced serrano pepper. Use salt and lime juice, adjusting little by little, until things taste just right.
That’s the jist of my process – I’m sure some of you have thoughts as well. Give a shout if I’m missing anything…